Monday, June 4, 2012

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah and the Case for a Newburyport Senior Community Center

One final post on this and I'll happily shut up...;-)

In the City Council, I am one of 11 people who gets to vote on matters important to all citizens.  On June 5th, I'll be one of 13,000 voters who gets to vote on three questions which have important implications to our future.

I will be voting Yes-Yes-Yes for a new Bresnahan School, a rehabilitated Nock-Molin School, and Newburyport's first and long overdue Senior Community Center.  More information on all those issues at
The two school votes have received a lot of attention.  I also want to make the case for a YES vote on the Senior Community Center.  I hope you will share this email with your Newburyport friends and family.
For years the City has been looking for the proper site and procrastinating and delaying on how to pay for it.
Some would like it closer to Downtown, some would like it on the Waterfront.  All of this has been looked at in the past and every one of these other locations (Cushing Park, Fulton Pit, NRA lots) has downsides.

Our seniors live all over the City including the North End and West End, not just the Sullivan Building on Temple Street or the James Steam Mill.  The Bresnahan is a perfectly viable location with a real plan to pay for it.

Here is a breakdown of registered voters over the age of 65:

Newburyport W01 P01
Newburyport W01p
Newburyport W02 P01
Newburyport W03 P01
Newburyport W04 P01
Newburyport W05 P01
Newburyport W06 P01

As to whether there is a "crucial need" for it, I would argue that for hundreds of frail seniors and thousands of healthier seniors in need of services, benefits, and activities the answer is a resounding YES.
We have good quality senior services provided in a very cost-effective manner by the City's Council on Aging Director Roseann Robillard, a couple of staff, and a lot of volunteers.  These services are a very small part of the City operating budget and in the last fiscal year served 851 unduplicated elders.  We are one of a handful of municipalities in Massachusetts that does not have a central location for these basic services.
851 elders seems indicative to me of a fairly high demand. Is every senior going to use this? No. If you're an elder with family still in Newburyport or you have excellent health or you have the resources to snowbird to Florida every winter, you probably don't need it. But if your resources are limited, your family and friends are gone, and you're isolated, yeah, I'd say you're likely to use it.

There's a simple reason why it's a good idea to put these services in one spot: it's easier for the customers/seniors/elders to use.  And here's another good reason: it's more efficient for the limited number of staff to operate these programs when they are not begging/borrowing/renting scattered spaces.

Bill Plante in the Daily News does a great job of reminding us that the push for better services for elders has been a long struggle in Newburyport

He's right on:
I don't want to make a case for the supernatural here, but a week ago, I came across an old photograph of my late mother, Bertha M. Plante, and that of the mother of Newburyport's late Mayor Albert H. Zabriskie, together with the Rev. Bertrand H. Steeves, minister emeritus of the First Religious Society, who is still very much with us. It was taken because they were leaders in the pioneer efforts to let the voices of the elderly be heard. Senior citizens were so with the times that they were invited to appear on Boston television.
Generations of other local voices continued taking up their cry, and it was heard and responded to in a great many communities, most of which built senior centers. Newburyport hasn't, and this is another attempt, because the mean age of Americans is growing older every day.
Here's a recap of the services and where they are provided:
Services currently provided by the Council on Aging and what could be done in a suitable space:

                                    Current                                               Future 
Nutrition                      Meals on Wheels                      Cooking for One’ classes 
                                    Congregate meals                     Eating with Diabetes program
                                    Brown Bag program                  Men’s Meeting’ Breakfast program

Fitness                         Exercise to Music                     Yoga
                                    Line Dance                                           Tai Chi / Reiki
                                                                                                Ball Room/Tap Dance/Square Dance
                                                                                                Weight training
                                                                                                Stationary bikes/treadmills

Health                          Podiatry                                                                
                                    Blood Pressure checks                           Chronic Disease Self-Management
                                    Hearing loss evaluations            Chair Massage
                                    Info Seminars                           Walking club
                                    Durable Equipment loan

Support                      Low Vision                               Weight Management
                                    Grief/Bereavement                    Panic/Anxiety/Depression support
                                                                                    AA –Sober after Sixty / Gamblers
                                                                                                CareGiver support/Alzheimer support
                                                                                                Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Outreach                     Telephone Reassurance             Friendly Visiting Program

Creative                       Knitting for Newborns              Teddy Bear Workshop
                                    Watercolor Painting Class         Art exhibits
                                                                                                Memoirs workshop
                                                                                    Quilting - Bunka
                                                                                    Woodcarving / Model Ship building

Social                           Bridge                                      Poker/Whist/Cribbage/Scrabble      
                                    Retired Readers                         Golden Age meetings
                                    Bingo                                       Red Hat meetings
                                    Day Trips                                 Birthday parties – Holiday parties
                                    Mah Jongg                               Sports Fan Club
Community                  TRIAD    (safety programs)       Ask A Cop
                                    COA Board meetings                State Rep/Senator office hours
                                    Property Tax Work program      'News & Views’ meetings
                                    Snow Shoveling program          FRIENDS of COA
                                                                                           Veterans services
                                                                                           Volunteer/Job Bank

Education                                Health Insurance Counseling                          
                                    Monthly Newsletter                         Investments Club
                                    Tax Filing Assistance                     Computer classes
                                    Housing Options                            Retirement planning
                                    Information & Referral

Transport                    NEET – out of town transport
                                    Evening Meal Van service
                                    Medical transport
                                    Food shopping

COA Service/Program Locations Currently Rented/Begged/Borrowed
  • Salvation Army building
  • People’s United Methodist church
  •  Elks Hall
  •  Newburyport Public Library
  • Emma Andrews Library
  • City Hall
  • Anna Jaques Hospital
  • Atria Merrimack Place
  •  Salisbury Hilton Center
  • Sullivan Building
  • Heritage House
  • James Steam Mill

2010 census info
Total Nbpt Residents = 17,416      Age 60+ = 4,261 (24%)
Babyboomers: born between 1946 – 1964 comprise 35% of the population (6,113 residents)
Demographic projections predict increase in aging until the year 2050.

Again I hope you’ll vote Yes-Yes-Yes.  Please share this with your Newburyport friends.

Sincerely, City Councillor Ed Cameron

There have been slight changes in Ward boundaries because of the 2010 Census.  You can double check your polling location at

The polling hours are open from 7am-8pm and the polling locations are as follows:
Ward 1 Plum Island, Plum Island Boat House, 300 Northern Blvd.
Ward 1, People's Methodist Church, 64 Purchase St.
Ward 2, Brown School, Lime Street
Ward 3, Hope Church, 11 Hale St.
Ward 4, Hope Church, 11 Hale St.
Ward 5, Bresnahan School, 333 High St.
Ward 6, Bresnahan School, 333 High St.

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